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From nose to memory: the involuntary nature of odor-evoked autobiographical memories in Alzheimer's disease.

Research paper by Mohamad M El Haj, Marie Charlotte MC Gandolphe, Karim K Gallouj, Dimitrios D Kapogiannis, Pascal P Antoine

Indexed on: 19 Oct '17Published on: 19 Oct '17Published in: Chemical senses



Abstract

Research suggests that odors may serve as a potent cue for autobiographical retrieval. We tested this hypothesis in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and investigated whether odor-evoked autobiographical memory is an involuntary process that shares similarities with music-evoked autobiographical memory. Participants with mild AD and controls were asked to retrieve two personal memories after odor exposure, after music exposure, and in an odor-and-music-free condition. AD participants showed better specificity, emotional experience, mental time travel, and retrieval time after odor and music exposure than in the control condition. Similar beneficial effects of odor and music exposure were observed for autobiographical characteristics (i.e., specificity, emotional experience, and mental time travel), except for retrieval time which was more improved after odor than after music exposure. Interestingly, regression analyses suggested executive involvement in memories evoked in the control condition but not in those evoked after music or odor exposure. These findings suggest the involuntary nature of odor-evoked autobiographical memory in AD. They also suggest that olfactory cuing could serve as a useful and ecologically valid tool to stimulate autobiographical memory, at least in the mild stage of the disease.